ASSEMBLIES THAT COUNT. By Margaret Cooling and Catherine O'Connell. pound;8.95.
SONGBOOK. pound;14.99. The Stapleford Centre. Tel: 0115 939 6270
THE RICH POP STAR AND OTHER SKETCHES. THE GOOD ROLLER BLADER AND OTHER SKETCHES. INSTANT DRAMA FOR SCHOOLS AND CHURCHES (Photocopiables). By Jon Webster pound;7.95 each. The National Society (Church of England) for the Promotion of Religious Education. www.natsoc.org.uk
There is no single answer to the assembly problem. Sometimes command theology, as exemplified in Assemblies to teach Golden Rules, meets the need ("be honest", "look after property") so this book could become a valued standby as an honest, no frills compilation full of ideas that have been tried and tested.
When the authors state their concern to get moral values "into children's hearts", you believe them. The text is direct and readable with some interesting instructions in italics, for example: Go back to the carrots. (I can't explain. Use your imagination.) Singing from an entirely different hymn-sheet, the Stapleford Centre has contrived to link assemblies with the National Numeracy Strategy in Assemblies that Count. The material is uncompromisingly Christian with somewhat tenuous mths links. There is an assembly on "The square ". The teacher's notes could be valuable if used selectively, but the songbook is dull, monotonous and best forgotten. With a score written mostly for one finger on each hand (if you are that weak a pianist, you will not manage the rhythms), and a CD reminiscent of Playschool and fish-fingers advertisements, it may yet appeal to the irredeemably happy-clappy.
It took me a little time to warm to the instant drama of Jon Webster's books, for they first struck me as a rowdy, pumped-up collection of assemblies that would send the children back to classrooms three feet in the air at least. But Jon Webster's voice is clearly that of experience, he has been there, spent many years facing ranks of "lively" children (his word), preparing assemblies, giving assemblies, and sometimes recovering situations when assemblies have bombed. His answer is involvement. He believes that children will get the most from an assembly if they understand the story "from the inside" and get involved in the telling.
I do not doubt that Jon Webster made this approach work for him. There are lively stories in both these books, retold in a pacy way with a minimum of props and scenery. Unison exclamation and mass chanting may not work for everyone, but Webster makes you want to give it a try.